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Patti Guethlein

I first volunteered in a classroom under the legendary Linda Wolfe. That’s when I knew, this is the kind of school I want to be in. I was hired in 1974 as a first, second, and third grade teacher in Unit I.

In 1976, the school held a big celebration for the country’s bicentennial. Judy Arnold, who really created the school’s counseling program, knew a parent who owned a funeral home and that parent donated a concrete vault to Doherty, which Judy used as a time capsule. The kids put all kinds of stuff in there — bellbottoms, tie dye clothing, albums, personal notes that they wrote. We buried it behind Brooks Hall, and we’ve never been able to find it since. We’ve had alums tell us, “We’re going to go in the middle of the night and dig it up,” and Judy and I said, “Call us, because we’re coming with you!” It should be sealed, so what’s in it should have survived. Someday, the school is going to find a weird vault in the hillside.

I remember the energy crisis of 1977, where many schools had to close down. In typical Seven Hills fashion, we didn’t close; we moved classes into parent homes. I was in the Horowitz house at the corner of Keys Crescent and Madison Road. It was the first time I thought, “Nothing is going to bring this school down!”

By 1982, I’d been teaching for eight years, clipping along, when the head of Doherty left in August for a different job in Texas. I was 29 years old, and I never aspired to administration. Peter Briggs called me over to his office on the Hillsdale Campus. He said, “You’re who the parents want. Would you lead Doherty for one year?”

After two years as interim head, Peter asked me if I would be permanent head. I was having fun by then. When you’re a division head, a lot comes to you, and you have to sort out all the pieces. Sometimes you get the glory, and sometimes you take the heat. What I thought made Doherty different was the extent to which we worked in teams — first through third grade all as one team, and fourth through sixth grade all as one team. As a teacher and then as principal, I was never alone. There was a lot of collective wisdom. We were able to figure things out together and figure out students together. It was a collaborative effort before that was as hip in education.

The physical campus of Doherty is such a special place. That area is just filled with so much history. Certain times of year, you can see the river; other times of year, it takes a little more imagination. The courtyard is the heart of that campus. You walk through it no matter where you go, and it was the site of so many of our special traditions, including the June Program to celebrate our fifth graders. Faran Hall had so much character. When it housed the Middle School, I can’t figure out how seventh and eighth graders got through those hallways, bouncing around each other. We later moved art, science, and drama classes into Faran Hall. From when I started teaching there, a dozen years later, not one single thing was in the same place. I think that shows creativity. We didn’t have an attitude of, “You have to do this there,” or “You have to do this that way.”

At Doherty, we would always invite the 12th graders to come back. I noticed how they didn’t talk about the day they defeated long division, they talked about the Mini Pig Run and the Winter Program and the June Program and Cultural Connections Week. They talked about the things that impacted their heart.

I was at Doherty for 44 years. That’s a long time. We think we’re going to remember everything, but we don’t, so I kept a file called “Cute Kid Stories.” I remember one little guy coming into my office when I would read to the students. And he said, “Mrs. Guethlein, I’m going to be a principal one day.” I said, “You are?” I was thinking, I’ve inspired him, this is great. So, I asked him, “And why is that?” and he said, “Because you don’t really have to do anything, and I bet you get to put your feet up on the desk.” What I miss most — that’s easy, it’s the kids. It’s how they make you laugh.

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